Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hey Republican Friends! Here's an idea

So, from the department of Just One More Clever Idea:

Ya know how the Repubs are so certain that the power of the free market is so potent that it can solve darn near any problem? From incenting poor people not to be so poor to getting low-grade earning students off their lazy butts, there's no problem for which a good Republican can't figure out a market solution for. Damn clever of them.

So, let's look at the way the Repubs have built a market-solution to war. Why, virtually every aspect of modern warfare has been turned over to the private sector.

So doesn't this mean that we've created a market for war? That there are market participants whose livelihood depends on a fairly steady stream of people and things getting blown up, burnt and shot? Won't they be expected to maximize their self-interest by ensuring that we're always at war somewhere, with someone?

So here's the thought: this seems like a very, very bad policy. How about we decide that war is a bad thing, one that ought to be avoided except in the most compelling cases. Which would mean that we should end these market forces, like we have whenever we've had a real war. Anyone remember the War Board telling Ford Motor Company exactly what it would do with its assembly lines, and exactly how much the tax payers would pay, on pain of having the government take it over if need be?

Pretty far cry from the head of Haliburton also being the head of the government and telling the government what it will pay when Haliburton decides we need to invade, say, Venezuela.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hey MSM: It's a Dem Sweep, pure and simple. Even here in NYC.

It's nice to see the MSM taking a few steps out from behind their mothers' skirts and actually pointing things out.

Still, it irks me no end to hear about Bloomberg representing a Republican brightspot. Here's a guy who was a lifelong dem switching, he says, because the dem primary was too competitive. He governs from left of center -- he strengthens programs for the poor, he invests in our schools, he gave our teachers a sort-of-decent raise (after a tough negotiation with their union -- which by any reasonable measure he won for the benefit of the students). He's pro-choice, pro-gay equality, and anti school prayer.

Yeah, big Republican victory, all right.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Beautiful Friday

Unexpectedly nice November 3d Friday in NYC. High above 70. Nice.

Political news suddenly gone silent. Feels like a re-loading pause. For the moment, Dems have landed a few major blows in succession, and the Repubs are feeling it. A bit back on their heels, perhaps, and Dems leaning in to press their advantage.

Meantime, in the local NYC race for mayor, Bloomberg is starting to shade into "run up the score" territory. Of course he won't (shouldn't) let up -- who knows how much a last-minute stumble might cost him. It is conceivable if unlikely that he could blow through a 40 point cushion. But God bless the man. He is a classic benign dictator, whose only interest is that of the people of his city. God forbid something were to happen -- he's the one I'd want calling the shots. Sorry, Freddie. Maybe after the election Andy Stein, Mark Green, Ruth Messinger, Dave Dinkins and you can all get an apartment together.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Judicial Conservatism

The thing people are forgetting is that until the current conservative movement's ascendency, our judicial heritage, from something like 987A.D., has been one of more or less straight-line progress. Yes, progress.

At bottom, the idea of progressiveism is that once we move forward, we don't go back. We are always improving people's lives. Traditionally, convervatives have been in favor letting people fend for themselves. But the new "conservatives" actually want things to go backwards - judicially, legislatively, economically, socially. It is an extreme recoiling from the specter of ordinary people using the levers of power to improve their own lives.

Don't worry -- at the end of the day, we always win. We are, after all, the good guys.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Thing Is

This is a link to a completely thoughtful analysis by Jack Balkin of the new SCOTUS nominee Alito.

We know that the new median Justice supports abortion rights claims a little less than O'Connor...supports gay rights claims a bit more than O'Connor...thinks affirmative action is largely unconstitutional..thinks most campaign finance regulation is unconstitutional...[and] has been more likely to permit government endorsements of religion and state financial support of religion than O'Connor.... On federalism, it's a mixed bag[ and o]n Presidential power, the position of the new median justice, interestingly enough, appears to be unchanged.

What I find illuminating is the list of issues in order:

abortion rights
gay rights
affirmative action
campaign finance
government endorsements of relegion
Predintial power

Certainly these are the hot issues before the Court. But what does it say about the monopolization of our public life by the Forces of Evil that abortion rights and gay rights are at the tippy-top of the list? Two absolutely crucial issues to be sure (and yes, I mean "to be sure" in that pundit-y way of dismissing something as less important as something else coming up). Where are the issues that affect tens of millions of Americans' lives? (And don't start by re-asserting how important and impactful abortion rights and gay rights are -- I already said they are, then did the dimissing "to be sure." So, 'nuff said, right?)

FDR went to the mat with the Court to protect his efforts to help millions of Americans end the cycle of poverty and dispair that his Republican predecessors had set up so devastatingly. He fought to protect the rights of Americans to enjoy safe work places and wholesome foods and drugs. He fought for things that impacted the lives of ordinary Americans. While reproductive freedom (might as well lump it together with Gray since many extra-kooky wingnuts do also), certainly impacts virtually all adult Americans deeply, there are other issues which are also deeply impactful: lack of proper healthcare, inadequate education, lack of support for families, checks on corporate-ism run amok -- in short, a lack of financial security that has gutted for many Americans any sense of hope or stability.

All of which is a long way of saying that let's fight the good fight against the Forces of Evil and their Cold Heartless Judges. But until we open up a strong offensive front of our own choosing -- i.e., without regard to the Forces of Evil's agenda -- we will continue not only to lose, but also to ignore the crying needs of our society. We won't prevail til we have a leader as dedicated and forceful as FDR (or, I hate to say, Reagan), but that's no reason to delay framing our own agenda as professionally and compellingly as we can in the meantime.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Hooray for Alita! Bush has just handed us a wonderful gift -- maybe we should get him a little something.

So, Bible Belt friends, you are about to receive a newsflash: America hates you! An overwhelming majority of Americans think you are buffoons. We think that women should have equal rights with men. We think the decision to have an abortion is no business of the federal government -- and if you get rid of Roe v. Wade, we'll just pass the laws we need. Of course, some of you Bible Belters may find your states in the thrall of religious kooks, so you may have some trouble with reproductive freedom.

Wanna knock down the Commerce Clause jurisprudence of the last 90 years? Fine. We'll still keep the liberal agenda, since it has, and will continue to have, the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans.

Maybe we'll let you pick a state -- Arkansas (sorry, Bill), Alabama, Tennessee -- and just go hog-wild with it: legalize feudalism, slavery, whatever you like. Just let people leave if they don't like it.

I think we are in for some good times, Dems.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Isn't this the Veep?

From today's indictment of Libby:

On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House (“Official A”) who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson’s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson’s trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson’s wife.

Didn't Libby learn of Plame's identity from the Veep? Isn't the Veep headed toward an indictment of the Protection of Secret Agents Act?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

And now for a laugh...

Enjoy a little funny from Jest.com.

Enjoy a little funny from Jest.com

What It All Means, And Where Do We Go From Here?

The time has come to take a long, hard look at two things of vital imprtance, but that we often overllok. Classic case of thh merely urgent (Delay indictment, e.g.) crowding out the important (say, healthcare for all Americans). So without further ado, here is 1) What It All Means, and 2)Where Do We Go From Here.

What It All Means.
I recently posted a top ten list of current bits of schaudefreude (Delay indictment, Plame-gate, Miers' nomination backlash, the failure of the Iraqi war as US policy, the failure of trickle-down economics (again!), and so on. All delicious tidbits for those of us who feel the Republicans long ago lost any claim on our sympathy.

But these items are powerful for two reasons, one often talked about and the other not. We often talk about the "drumbeat" effect: the idea that a series of negative things are occurring in quick (quickening?) succession for the Republicans. The code words you see in the media are things like, "mounting troubles," and "fresh allegations." (Look too for words like "beset" and "embattled." All code for drumbeat effect.)

The other we don't talk about is that these events confirm our pre-existing thoughts and concerns. Rumors that the President has recently returned to the bottle are unsettling because of concerns that his sobriety wasn't solid. The consternation over Miers plays into fears that the President has often picked people who are underqualified (calling Brownie, calling Bolton!). The Delay indictments give credence to a vague perception that the Republicans (and, sad to say, some Dems) are in an unholy alliance with business interests. And the doom and gloom from Iraq serves as a near-daily reminder that we all had doubts about going into Iraq, so much so that the President and his team had to pretend that we were only 45 minutes away from destruction if we failed to act.

So What This All Means is that conditions in the body politic are generally facorable to Democrats right now. The Katrina aftermath showed Americans that their concerns that starving the government of needed funding could have catatrophic consequences. Were we to experience a terrible financial crisis (a la Clusterfuck Nation), which I personally find a likely scenario, the nation would think, "ah, yes, there were many respected voices who said something like this would happen if we continued our profligate ways." Many of us on the left have been preaching for years the way of truth and light, and the reality-based world is now stepping up to show our positions for what they are: true and right.

Where Do We Go From Here
So if the country is finally headed in our direction, what do we do now? We have for so long been principally engaged in tearing down the edifices of deception and hatred erected by the other side. I often see in the comments here and elsewhere a sort of weariness with the fight and a concern about what we'll do when we don't have Tom Delay and George Bush to kick around any more. And therein lies the most Important Thing.

No one is going to vote for us just becuase we aren't George Bush. Sure, we might win an election or two, as Republicans did by not being Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter. But to re-build a sustainable majority of voters who will support our policies over the long-haul, we need to focus on our constructive vision of a better future. (As an aside, this is again re-inforcing pre-existing perceptions: Democrats are supposed to be good at governing and good at proposing and implementing improvements in our lives through government. Our failure to do just that has been a key part of why voters think of us as weak and useless. The flip side of that coin is that Republicans are supposed to be in charge of criticizing us and tearing down proposals for change. When they act in accordance with those expectations, for example by constantly sneering at big government tax-and-spend liberals, they are acting within those pre-existing expectations. This is also why IOKIYAR exists: people hold the Dems to higher standards because they're supposed to be the good guys. Republicans cheating on their wives is simply par for the course.)

So Where We Go From Here is pretty clear. While some of us will forever be engaged in batting down the evilness of at least some on the right (a special detail will always have to be vigilant to gaurd against future Swift Boat Vets), the bulk of our guys need to go over to offense. That's why Pelosi's "contract with America" is being rushed out early. We need to coalesce around two or three basic, big ideas. And we all know what they are already: healthcare for all, education for all, a fair tax system, and a government allied with the needs of the voters, not the donors. The slogan I prefer is "Community, Opportunity and Responsibility." And there are a 1,000 ways we will show the voters exactly what we mean. We will embrace science. Our administration will be transparent. We will work with our allies overseas. We will invest in new industries to create new jobs. We will protect the dignity of even the poorest Americans.

The only thing missing from the equation is, alas, something that is absolutely necessary, a visionary, charismatic leader. There would have been no New Deal without FDR, no conservative takeover without Reagan. Our national nominee for President defines us as a brand. Mcovern, Dukakis, Mondale, Gore and Kerry all served us poorly in that regard. They were analytical, reserved, low-emotion and nealy charisma-free. Reagan, Clinton, much the other way: intuitive, charismatic, empathetic, etc. The lesson to be drawn is quite clear. No more Bidens, Clarks, Hillarys or, God forbid, Kerrys. What we need to find, and find yesterday, is someone more like Edwards (at least as he seems to be on occasion): someone who is empathetic, emotive, can speak plainly, is free of condescension, and in this televsion age, looks handsome. If someone has a better choice, I'm all ears. Carville said some time back that this mysterious person probably isn't even in politics at the moment, and that may be true. But wherever this person is (and wouldn't it be wonderful if it was a woman), we need him/her if we're going to get back to the promised land.

And now you know What To Think.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


More Jest.com funny.

You really should check out the whole site.

Big Picture Round-Up

Time to give you the view from 50,000 feet up.

There are signs that the Great Republican Crack-Up is underway. I think the turning point was the media coverage of the hurricane Katrina.

Before we get all full of schadenfreude, let's remember that it seems to be the legacy of every lame duck presidential administration that the rest of the party -- the part that still has to face the electorate -- quickly realizes that ditching the lame duck is in their interests. So some of the conservative backlash we're seeing is simply regular Republicans distancing themselves from the lame duck W has certainly become.

But having been all cautious and everything, let's at least sample some of the Schadenfreude, vintage fall 05.

1. Katrina Aftermath
2. Iraq Quagmire
3. Record gas prices
4. Idiotic Supreme Court Nomination
5. Pending indictments in Plame-gate
6. Delay indictments (!!)
7. Stalled Economy
8. Social Security Privatization Blow-Up
9. Evidence of W's return to the bottle
10. Crony-ism (giving a hand to oil refiners, e.g., leave no billionaire behind, etc.)

OK, that's enough. But really, it IS enough. Even the slow-to-think press is starting to realize that these things all sort of add up to a story.

Here's my story:

The end is near for the corporate-ist party. The American people may be slow to catch on, but catch on they will. And I think we are seeing the beginning of that.

But all the tricks that the Repubs have used to get power are still there. They may be down but they are by no means out. There are a lot of smart and ambitious people on their side, and so far we are lacking the one necessary ingredient.

To put these guys down once and for all, we need a charismatic Democrat to lead the way. In fact, we probably need more than one. But we need someone who is muscular, who is positive, who is likable, and who has a positive vision for our country. Communications skills are a must, of course.

Without that person, we will continue to wander around in the wilderness. This person must be our nomineee in 08. Right now, the closest I see to the right person is Edwards.

And let's define what success looks like. I want the word Republican be like the word Communist was in McCarthy's day, as in, "I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican party." Or, "Isn't it true, madame secretary, that for many years you were an open and avowed member of the Republican Party, and even had dinner on more than one occasion with impeached President Bush?" "Good heavens, no. I never even met the man!" "Thank you, Secretary Rice."

And so on.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Been A While...

It's been a while since I posted here. No particular reason, just didn't hear the muse.

Are we witnessing a watershed event in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? I think the jury's still out, though there is some basis for thinking it might be true this time. Of course, it's hard not to be gun-shy, given how many times the right-wing has given cause for rejection. Tax cuts for the rich. Failure to re-build ground zero. Not really caring about catching Bin Ladn. Running huge budget deficits. Ignoring the UN. Invading a country that posed no threat to us or others. Spurning our allies. Destroying any chance of a good outcome in Iraq. Placing ideology above every other consideration. So, it's easy to see how adding one more to this list is going to make a difference.

And indeed it may not. This list may yet have room to grow, even though it seems obvious that the Right's grip on power seems aberrational.

Katrina has caused many voters to stop and think, without question. The initial news reporting was devastating -- local officials decrying the lack of support from the federal government, actually begging on-air for help. The WH spin machine finally sprung into action, laying the feds' failure as part of a broader governmental failure that knew no party ideology. (An effort reminiscent of blaming the intelligence for the failure to find WMD's in Iraq: it's not that we messed up, it's more that our mess up was caused by other people's failings. )

The good news here is that for years liberals have been saying that the Right does not care about government. The Right has been largely in agreement with this, preaching the gospel that the government is nothing more than a leach on the pocketbooks of decent hardworking people.

Katrina threw into high-relief the proper role of government as a life saver. And the dollar costs of the disaster -- a few billion in levees, etc. -- seem trivial compared to what we're spending in Iraq. It's hard to escape the conclusion that we're far more committed to rebuilding in the Middle East than we are in the Gulf.

The biggest impact of this on politics may well be the effect on the press. A lot of news people got an education that what the politicians say is happening and what is actually happening may not be the same. I think, sadly, for a lot of news people, the experience of seeing for themselves what was happening, and then having Bush lackeys say that what they saw happening wasn't happening, turned on a light which is not easily shut off. I think from here on out the press' credulity won't be quite so freely given, which cannot but lead to a better outcome in politics for Americans.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Most Chilling Story

Today's NY Times has a long-ish piece about the ex-urbs which is nothing short of bone-chilling. Here's the bits that popped out at me:

In its most recent survey of Tampa home buyers, KB asked people what they valued the most in their home and community. They wanted more space and a greater sense of security. Safety always ranks second, even in communities where there is virtually no crime. Asked what they wanted in a home, 88 percent said a home security system, 93 percent said they preferred neighborhoods with "more streetlights" and 96 percent insisted on deadbolt locks or security doors.


So KB Home offers them all. "It's up to us to figure out what people really want and to translate that into architecture," said Erik Kough, KB's vice president for architecture. And the company designs its communities with winding streets with sidewalks and cul-de-sacs to keep traffic slow, to give a sense of containment and to give an appearance distinctly unlike the urban grid that the young, middle-class families instinctively associate with crime. "I definitely feel safe here. I feel protected," said Lisa Crawford, who moved to New River about a year ago with her husband, Steve, and their two children.

These communities are ballooning all over the US. They are based on an appeal to fear. Look at how these communities are designed: locks, security systems, a "sense of containment," an appearance that repels the notion of crime-y urban grids, etc.

And of course, these areas are way Republican. What I'm finding so scary is I am at a loss to figure out what to say to these people. These folks have voted with their feet, saying, "we want out. You diverse society is too scary for us, and we want no part of it. We want to hole up with poeple like ourselves and be left alone."

How do you respond to that?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Is it possible that the WH is really in trouble? It seems that the prosecutor is fixin' to issue some indictments.

But of course, it's not like the WH is new to this game, or suddenly stupid or something.

Little said the Senate committee would also review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years.

So there it is then. When the prsocecutor starts to sling the slime, the WH will point to the ogoing investigation of the investigation to throw up its traditional smear-the-messenger defense.

I suspect that in their usual fashion they will say Americans had enough of politicially charged special investigators with Bill Clinton, and want no more Clintonian scandal mongering. In other words, it'll all be Bill Clinton's fault. Again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Guess I Better Post Something

I've been busy posting on other sites, but not here. But the nomination of a S.Ct. Justice is a big enough deal to cross-post here.

My thoughts on Roberts are the same as Leader Reid's: seems OK on paper, let's see what we learn. Open mind.But I can't help but look at this politically. I am offended to the core that Bush's pick is touted on the front page of the NYT as being based on Roberts' "fairness and civility."

My problem is not with Roberts as much as it is with Bush's ongoing lack of candor. If Bush was looking for fairness and civility, I've got dozens of liberal jurists who would fit the bill. In conflating his real reasons for picking Roberts (really conservative, really reliable, really thin record, past confirmations) with these fake reasons (man of character, fairness, etc.), he is making a not-too-subtle rebuke to us libruls: we lack civility, lack fairness, don't know from character, etc.

All of which, I suppose is to be expected from this punk. But why oh why must our press go along with this nonsense? They bear a heavy responsibility for the terrible road we're now on.For ourselves, let's not lose sight of the victory we can make if we're smart.

Forget filibustering. They've got the votes. Period. Roberts is in.

Let's make sure that we use this process to let the American people know first that even a conservative kook like Roberts largely subscribes to the basic liberal core of our modern jurisprudence, and secondly, where he is out of the American mainstream, let's make sure people know just how he is out of step, and what it will mean for our fellow citizens.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Friday, June 10, 2005

Oh Me Oh My!

I seem to have discovered how to post photos. Beautiful children now on-line. Enjoy!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ygleias Asks is America #1?

Over at TPM Cafe, the amazingly talented Matt Yglesias reports on some research that says most Americans believe that "America is the Greatest Country in the World," but less than half think "Democrats believe that America is the Greatest Country in the World." Matt wonders if the poll isn't reflecting correctly that many on the left are uncomfortable with the idea that America is "the Greatest." Here's my comment, cross-posted at the "Matt Yglesias" section of TPM Cafe:

From what I hear, most of the Left's discomfort with the "America, the Greatest" idea derives from concern about what the Right has been doing here the last 10-15 years or so (with the growing support of a majority of Americans). From that perspective, I am certainly in the "not comfortable" category regarding America #1.

But if I take a step back, and think about the many things we still do right in this country (at least until the Repubs push us back even more), I get totally comfortable. No country on earth embraces diversity and tolerance to the extent that we do. No country on earth values free speech more than we do. No country on earth has higher hopes and dreams for itself and the other nations on the globe.

Now, I know the Right is hacking away at this. But our day will come. We will stop their effort to take us back to the 19th century (or even further), and will reverse the damage they have done. I know we will even re-start the progressive march our society had been until they made progress their sworn enemy.

How do I know this? Because no nation on earth has a better system for allowing its people to work out their differences. Corrupt media blocking voters from real information? Well, our good old American ingenuity and spirit is devising ways around that. Corrupt politicians gaming the system and stacking the courts? We are starting with local school boards and working our way up. One way or another, we will overcome adversity. We always have, and I believe we always will.

Boiled down, I see us as suffering a crisis of leadership. I love Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as much as the next America-hating liberal, but they are not leaders in any transcendant way. I'm not sure we've had real leaders since Kennedy. The right's veneration of W shows how much people want strong leaders. He's an idiot and they worship him.

Carville said sometime in the last year or two that our next great leader probably isn't even in politics at this point. He or she may be 17 years old right now, or working as an inner city math teacher. What I do know for sure is that without Ronald Reagan the Right wouldn't be where it is today. (Nor would we have had the success we did without FDR.) The next leader of that stature is coming -- I have enough faith in my fellow Americans to believe that such a person will rise up in due course. And that that leader will restore our confidence that America is indeed the greatest nation on earth.

Until then, we'll just continue with the business of finding political cannon fodder.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Being Poor

Cross-posted to Senator Edwards' guest blog at TPM Cafe. (Yay! -- So far it seems great!)

Senator Edwards, you are a) my hero, and b) spot-on, but still nibbling around the edges. I was raised upper-middle class, briefly had an upper-middle class lifestyle, then faced real poverty and financial need for several years before crawling back to lower-class.
While the ridiculous costs imposed on poor people solely because they are poor are an important part of the problem, the deeper evil is in society's current mindset that the poor deserve to be poor. As Denzel Washington's character in Cry Freedom, Steven Biko, explained about the grinding-down of apartheid, the genius of the belief system is in convincing poor people themselves that it is their own fault.
Far too many poor people get the idea that they don't deserve better than they've got. Government seems to have exited the business of helping poor people and gone into the business of humiliating them. Everything the government does is heavily dosed with the idea tha you have failed and need remedial life help. Plus, if we help you too much, you won't have learned your lesson about just how horribly you have failed.
Here's a newsflash: the poor New Yorkers I've met are not any smarter or dumber, harder-working or lazier, taller or shorter, than the rich New Yorkers I once worked with. Like Americans generally, they are people of infinite variety, strength and weakness.
When Ronald Reagan asked, "are you better now than you were four years ago," he started us on a path of "me-ism" which has wrecked our Great Society. Our society shouldn't be "every-man-for-himself," nor should it be about which government programs can be shown to be the most efficacious; rather, our society should reflect our Judeo-Christian-Islamo heritage and be premised on the belief that until we are all doing well, none of us are doing well enough.
Senator Edwards, let me know what I can do to help you in 08! Can't wait to see you as a blogger!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Ronald Reagan – Father of the “Me” Generation

Twenty-Four Years Ago candidate Ronald Reagan launched our society on its present course when he asked Americans, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”

I am increasingly convinced that this marks a decisive turning point in the public life of our American society. From this remark to the present day, our society has been defined by a single-minded emphasis on this one question: “How am I doing?” While this insight is by no means original to me, I am struck more and more every day how much it explains about the sorry state of our national civic life.


When I was a kid, the news would report on how we as a society was doing. Our average income was up! For the 24th year in a row! Our standard of living, already undeniably the highest in the world, was up again! Our literacy rate had achieved near-impossible levels of success. Our government was focused on improving the lives of what we called the “less fortunate.” It seemed to matter how the least amongst us were doing, and what those who were called “fortunate” worried about doing enough to give back to society.

Today, of course, under the insidious guide of personal responsibility, poor people are poor because they have made bad choices: either they failed to get the education they should have, or they took jobs in shaky businesses, or they failed to prevent terrible injury, or whatever. Any reason that someone might be poor today comes back to one thing in our modern era of personal responsibility: the individual involved must have made a mistake at some point.

And of course, the happy people of means have much to be proud of: their entrepreneurial spirit, their hardwork, their brains their innovation, whatever. Rich people are rich because they deserve to be. Money has become an almost perfect substitute for human and/or moral worth.

The pre-Reagan era of collective responsibility was an easy target. To hear the Republicans tell the tale, nothing was ever anybody’s fault. Can’t get cable tv? It’s the government’s fault, the right would have their strawmen cry. Can’t get a job, the strawman would ask? Blame corporate America.

To make this new paradigm work, the right needed to disengage government from a decades-long reliance on social science. Social science promised to use the best methods from the world of hard science to help us discern and alleviate the problems of society. Data collection was of course central to the enterprise. For the right, this meant playing the left’s game.

So we chucked social science in favor of anecdotal evidence. Reagan’s welfare queens. Militant gays. The rise of the living proof in the form of an ordinary person attending the State of the Union.

And so, the social scientists have continued to labor in obscurity, collecting data that the right deems irrelevant. What’s important they say is not the world as is exists (the derisively named “Reality-based world”), but the world as we imagine it should exist (a world they might like to call the “Leadership World”).

I’m a big believer in the productive power of balance – proportional levels reality and imagination. And I do believe that we on the left have forgotten the power of imagination and thought leadership, and relied too heavily on the value of measuring and managing reality as we find it. But while we may be weak, we at least are on the side of angels. And we do not spurn outright the other half of these particular paired opposites. The right rejects the notion that data and reality is even relevant. I’m not sure why they even fund the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation. I’m sure there are people on the right who would turn the funding off on these tomorrow.

My formulation of our “brand DNA” has been “Community. Responsibility. Opportunity.” And the phrase that typifies it for me is, “Are we better off than we were four years ago?”

If the never-varying cycle of generational partisan shifts is 36 years, the question is whendo we start measuring. If we take it from 1980, we've got a ways to go. But I'd be excited about helping to build a movement that culminates with our candidateushering in the "We" generation. I just hope it won't take til 2016 for it to happen.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

To my thousands of readers:

I haven't posted in some time cause I haven't felt like it. Too bad. Buy a comic book. Read the newspaper. Get a life.

From Josh Marshall:

Add to this the fact that the president is clocking in at under 30% support on Social Security and most Americans now understand that he wants to dismantle the program and the whole thing really becomes a no-brainer.

In fact, Dems should really start making the point now that they are the ones who stopped President Bush from phasing out Social Security this year.

Be loud, be proud.

Here's a chance to take a negative (opposing the idiot President) and turn it into a positive: Democrats, the people who saved Social Security. Again.

How come if this is so easy for me it's darn near impossible for the likes of Joe Biden?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

When will we ever learn?

When we learn that fighting the fight on the battleground of the enemy’s choosing is a dumb idea?

Surely Sun Tzu or von Clausewitz or somebody pronounced this idea memorably enough for us to learn it. Grant? Lee? Patton? Ike? Anybody?

Today I read that my friends are fighting the culture wars staged by the Republicans. I think it has something to do with filibustering and judges. Maybe faith, too.

In any case, it is a classic case where we have taken their bait, hook, line and sinker. Maybe even the pole.

The sole discernible purpose of Justice Sunday (or whatever they called their revival meeting this past weekend) was to paint us as Godless, amoral and out of touch with real American values. And boy, have we risen to the occasion!

If I hear one more Air America personality/caller (Randi excepted, of course) whine about how the red-state evangelicals are crazy, I’ll scream. If I read one more post on Kos or Atrios about how the red-staters are crazy because they keep voting against their own interests, EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE PATIENTLY EXPLAINED THIS TO THEM 3,000 TIMES, I’ll scream.

The red-staters, evangelicals, blue-collar voters, etc. (let’s call them swing voters) are not following us because we are not leading. The only people pulling the lever for us are people who aren’t likely to vote for the other team no matter what. Except of course for the future swing voters who will swing away from us if we don’t start to lead.

Today, Kos wonders what’s wrong with the D-Brand of “Democrats are the party for people who work for a living.” In the ad biz, this would be positioned as a campaign tag, not an actual tag line. In other words, it’s the key insight for all our thinking about the brand, but not necessarily the framing that’ll be used in speaking with consumers.

My own view is that Kos’ line is too limiting. It also still resonates in a negative way with now-ancient-but-not-forgotten communist bashing. (Remember, the hatred spewed by the right will be ricocheting around our culture for decades!) I do, however, think the general direction is about right.

We need to come up with an even bigger idea. I’ve been thinking that the campaign tag line is something like “Community. Responsibility. Opportunity.” What’s missing is the emotional subtext to turn this into our equivalent of “smaller government” or “lower taxes.”

I think our framing must tap into our core strength, which is that we all believe that by collective action we can as a society improve our lives significantly. Which includes things besides letting market forces sort everything out. (Every time we try this market-rules-all approach, we get total crap. Like now.)

This is in contrast to the Republicans’ core strength, which is identifying and voicing all of the potential problems of our program for progress. We should never forget that this is a useful and important role, which deserves just as much credit and weight as our “change-or-die” approach. Our society works best when these two forces are in balance. And right now, we are terribly out of balance.

I suspect that the Republicans never dreamed they’d have the kind of success they’re having. In their general tirades about us, they touched on the nerve of taxes being too high. This, despite any evidence to that effect.

But plenty of swing voters bought into it, 100%. Of course, not based on any real evidence, but based solely on the reports of their own two eyes, gazing at their pay stubs every two weeks, with a seeming fortune going to the government. Hell, with that much money most of us could buy a car. (This anecdotal approach to analysis persists, flourishing, in our current society. Terry Schiavo, for example.)

Ben Franklin’s principal objection to a republican form of government was that it would collapse as soon as the people figured out they had the power to raid the treasury. It may be that the Republicans have unleashed that exact genie, never again to be returned.

For my part, I’m with the overwhelming majority of founding fathers who thought the constitution was not worth having for very long. I think many of them thought that whatever they crafted, time and changing circumstance would moot before too long. And I think they were unassailability right in this.

But instead of chucking it out every half century or so, we developed this fluid notion of what the constitution meant, and resorting to amendments from time to time. But as I read the current tea leaves, we are embarked, irrevocably I believe, on a course which will lead us to a new constitutional order.

Republicans (conservatives, really) object that we Democrats have stretched the constitution beyond all recognition in pursuit of our (worthy) goals. There may be truth in this. (There may not.) But I think the right has drawn fault lines in our country that will lead us to re-visit the basic deal on which our civil institutions rest.

We have had small-minded, bible-thumping intolerant jerks from the day after the Mayflower arrived. (By the sheer power of genealogical mathematics, I am a Mayflwer descendant. In a few more generations, every human will be.) They were in Massachusetts Bay colony (Rhode Island, any one?). They were present in Philadelphia in 1775-6. They were certainly around for abolition, and for temperance.

But we have had to, from time to time, re-visit our deal with these (American) folk. I live in New York, which from the start celebrated its diversity (OK, not when it jailed Quakers, but come on), and every day continues to show the inherent strength of the proposition that we are better together.

The time is nigh when we must once again re-new our deal: we let them have intolerant, closed communities where they feel sanctimoniously superior, they let us have the rest as an open, tolerant and secular society.

For us to be able to strike this deal anew, we need to be in touch with our own ideas. Tolerance. Secular government. And right now, we can barely remember these ideas.
So to begin our journey back to our roots, we need to re-visit first principles, convince each other of their continued value, then go about selling them to the swing voters. And all of that is likely to take some time. But to the extent that I am permitted a megaphone for cheerleading purposes (George Buch and Trent Lott, fellow Cheerleaders, of course in college), I urge us to develop a clean emotional pitch for our values. The formula is easy: authenticity + cultural relevance = emotional resonance. But filling in the equation’s values can be daunting. So we better get started.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Lead, dammit!

So, Mr. DeLay thinks we need to re-think judicial review, does he? Not too comfortable with judges having lifetime appointments? Wants to define “good behavior” (the condition of judges’ tenure) as “agrees with me,” does he?

Well, let’s of course unleash the full fury of the academy on him.

But as for a political response, I think this is clearly an instance where we should employ the “Don’t Take the Bait” strategy I’ve been advocating for quite some time.

What are supposed to do, argue in favor of judges ignoring the will of the people? Make the case that judges shouldn’t be concerned with the will of the majority? Once again, for the millionth time, argue in favor of the rights of the minorities?

Can’t we see this one coming and avoid it? Are we truly Wile E. Coyote?

Let’s launch the “sore losers” meme, if you will. But let’s put it in a frame that has broad, unassailable support. For example, when discussing Mr. DeLay’s ideas, we can say,

“Judicial review and independence is part of our shared traditions as Americans and we certainly want no part of meddling with the system of checks and balances that has served us so well for over two centuries. Just because things don't go your way is no reason to cry foul and try to change the well-settled rules that all Americans support.”
Now, was that so hard? And no matter what they say, just keep saying those words over and over. Let them explain Marbury to the American people.

At the same time, in the event there are other progressives who want to regain power, let me suggest that we need to demonstrate leadership on this. I’d like some enterprising politician out there (paging Democratic Congressmen, ambitious Democratic Congressmen) to propose a new federal initiative to adequately fund the courts in this country. After years of Republicans starving the courts, the time has arrived to provide the courts with the funding they need, for amongst other things, security. I believe we’ll have no trouble getting a whole gaggle of Republican judges on board this program. It should specify a large, inspiring amount of money ($5 billion, for example, over 3 years), and direct that the funds be used as directed by the US Judicial Conference, which is an administrative body within the judiciary. We should suggest that the funds be used of course to provide adequate security to all judges and judicial branch personnel, but also to allow for judges to study, to hold conferences, to get continuing judicial education, to hire and train adequate staff, and finally to computerize and open up technologically the US courts. Hell, I’d even mandate that we put cameras in the courts and make C-SPAN add C-SPAN IV. But that’s me – I actually like democracy.

If we got the Democratic machine on board, we could start to give reporters something to talk about besides how wonderful dear leader is. We could elevate judges at just the time the other side wants to reduce them formally to the role of lapdog. We could move off of the ridiculous “activist judges” meme, which is so ridiculous even I won’t bother explaining it again. At least not today.

Now there are potential pitfalls here. We might end up packing the federal courts with a whole bunch of newly created judgeships held by kooky Bushies. So be it. Isn’t that about where we are already? And when we regain control of the government, we can pack it right back. Truth is, judges are cheap in the scheme of things. We can always hire more.

So here’s the bottom line. Let the academy handle the defense of Marbury. They love that stuff. Democratic politicians should chastise Republicans for being sore losers and trying to re-write the rules that are part of our shared heritage thathas served us so well for over two hundred years. And some ambitious Democratic Congressmen should propose an initiative to save the judiciary by providing it with enough funding to Keep Our Judges Safe.

Easy, huh?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Another New Idea.

I have long advocated the need for Progressives to start controlling the agenda by proposing wholly new and original ideas. I’ve proposed advocating for a cap on CEO salaries, for example, or pushing for a real national pension system.

Here’s a new one.

Remember how the Repubs made so much hay from the idea of a “balanced budget amendment” years ago? Of course it was nutty from a policy perspective, but it enabled them to portray themselves as being in favor of fiscal restraint and discipline, and quite opposed to the free-spending Washington spenders (which were thought in those days to be Dems, since we controlled the Congress).

I have an idea for something similar. How about a constitutional amendment prohibiting any state from receiving more in federal benefits than it pays into the federal treasury in taxes?

This would allow us to portray ourselves as in favor of state-level fiscal responsibility, and against free-loading states whose grip on the federal treasury allows them to take advantage of the hard working folks of the states that pay their fair share.

Now, one problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t do much to bolster the confidence and stature of red-staters, given that the main point is to show these folks that without help from their blue state neighbors, they wouldn’t be able to afford stop signs. But I wonder if there’s a way to re-work this idea so that it would serve the purpose of showing how detrimental it would be to the Repubs’ base if they actually got their wish – a federal government that only spent on defense, and also of showing how re-distribution of wealth is not evil or inherently unfair (as we will no doubt be hearing when the Pres chucks Soc. Sec. “reform”/phase-out in favor of “tax refom”/middle class tax increases.

Just throwing this one out there.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A correspondent to Eric Alterman's blog says of Al Smith's 1928 run:

In 1928 Hoover carried 200 Southern counties for the first time in Republican history. The 1928 election showed that with the right cultural issue (Prohibition, anti-Catholicism, something along those lines) the GOP could court the white South.

In short 1928 marked a shift toward the urban/rural partisan split we see today.

I will therefore add anti-drinking and anti-Catholicism (reprised in 1960) to the the incredibly lengthy list of shibboleths the right has used to cajole people into voting against their own interests (states' rights, anti-ERA, bussing, school prayer, flag burning, pledge of allegiance, gay marriage, killing the brain dead, etc., etc., etc.). I'd love for someone to pull them altogether and just list them. I think the sheer fatuousness of the list would do some damage...
I recently posted a comment on Kos a post on Ed Kilgore's piece about the Civil War. I said

I think this piece speaks to our current situation today quit directly. This strain in our culture is very much alive in our current political debate. And for my money, we're not going to get power back until we acknowledge that people who cling to the romance of their lost cause do so because they are otherwise totally and utterly beaten. Fought a war for an evil cause. Fought bitterly, and won nothing but heartache. It reminds me too of some of the folks in Germany following WWI -- defeated, but not broken, nursing a wound.

We need to support and help our red-state brethern see that we share the same dreams and hopes for the future, and that the past is both glorious and terrible for us both.

I was asked if I meant the Civil War as an analogy or as an actual ongoing issue.

I think the Civil War riffs is no mere analogy but very much alive and at the heart of the division that still afflicts us. It is most emphatically NOT about getting people in the South (and parts of the West) to understand anything. It is about getting us Yankees to understand that the res states operate with a deeply ingrained inferiority complex. Where are the Academy Awards? Does J. Lo. live in Indiana? Where the hell is Harvard?

Red staters are trying to do nothing so much as make themselves feel better about their generally second-class status. To help our nation progress, the best thing we blue-staters can do is to first recognize that sense of inferiority (which fuels all the senseless lashing out -- at femininsts, secularists, judges, etc.) See, if your problems are everybody else's fault, you're probably just trying to protect yourself from the hard reality that the problems are mostly your own damn fault. So piling on, constantly pointing out what maroons and rubes these folks are is terribly
counter-productive. No one is going to join with someone who makes them feel even worse about themselves when they are already struggling.

So to the second thing we need to do. We need to help red staters see the wonderful
strengths they have, and we need to help them address their very real problems.

Finally, we need to convince them that we are on their side, that we want them to succeed, and that we harbor no animosity or condecension toward them whatsoever.

Easy, huh?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Our Mantra

There’s a mini-cottage industry of people trying to figure out the Democratic version of “smaller government, lower taxes.” Lord knows I’ve tried. Here’s the thought of the day, a version of What We Stand For:

Peace, Freedom and Hope.

If we hammer all of our wonky positions into this frame, we’d get somewhere. No? Try it yourself and see.

Missing the Point on Schiavo

I don't think we'd be going down this road if Rove & Co. hadn't figured out the "win" strategy. And I think it's this: all the judges who rule "against life" will be used as the reason that the public has to get behind the upcoming slate of judges "who respect life."

And the media will promote the heck out of it, and the public will be herded into Rove's desired belief-print.

The other point that I think is strangely absent is the Bush brothers aspect: W is surely impelled by a sense of family loyalty to Jeb, who stuck his neck out (and perhaps pledged his honor to those poor parents) for this.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

From Liquid List, this pretty much says it all...

From Liquid Listvia Eschaton, this CNN.com screen grab pretty much says it all...

These Guys Have Some 'Splainin' To Do

Somewhere there are about 65,000 people in Ohio who have some 'splainin' to do.

We've witnessed a flurry of unwise and unpopular policy moves in just the last few days. We've decided that drilling in the acrtic wildlife preserves really is a good idea after all. We've decided that Amtrak is a useless drain on the taxpayers' resources and should be cut off. We've decided to saddle the UN with a US ambassador who is openly hostile to the UN's mission. We've decided that the World Bank should be led by a senior defense department official who'se judgment about foreign affairs has been startlingly bad for decades, and who has never shown the slightest interest in helping poor people around the world. We've decided that Americans who face financial ruin should be punished more, not less, except of course if they were previously very rich. We've decided that the rights of America's corporations are too important to leave to state-by-state experimentation when it comes to potential class liability for their screw-ups. We've found out that those injured by the negligence of America's corporations and wealthy individuals have been getting a free-ride and must stop. We've also discovered that the best source of judicial nominees is the pool of already-rejected nominees.

And that's just in the last week or two.

Now, almost all of this stuff is wildly unpopular. And, almost all of this stuff is what the losers of the 2004 election said would happen if they lost. And yet, some 65,000 people in Ohio (and, oh, many millions more elsewhere) voted for this any way. Maybe they thought it was like voting on American Idol, where it didn't really matter. Or viting for a favorite flavor of ice cream. Or student council president. Or something else where the vote was disconnected from real world consequences.

Who knows what millions of voters "thought." What I know is that our country has been betrayed by nothing so much as its own citizens giving themselves permission to ignore reality.

Before too long, the Social Security debate will devolve into something about tax fairness, and then Bush will drop the other bomb, as he promised he would in the election. He will propose a tax overhaul that will place more of the burden of paying for government on those that can least afford it, while giving those with the most means even more wealth and even less responsibility for taking care of their fellow citizens. And it will be deeply unpopular. Just like Social Security Benefit Cuts has been.

And the press will all scratch their heads wondering why so many people voted for the president and then are diappointed when he acts as he said he would. Is it their desire for "split government" (a fabled cunard that we had to deal with while the Dems held the WH). Is it they trust him on the big issues, and don't really object all that much to these policy choices? Is it that they are really conservative in name only? Oh, Timmy R. and company will really scratch their heads. But the answer seems to me quite simple: too many Americans are uninterested and self-deceiving about what's happened to this country, and are unwilling to admit that the political leadership of this country is deeply corrosive and serves only the interests of the very rich.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Meanwhile…A Cure for What Ails Us

I’ve taken a break to deal with some serious personal stuff the last few weeks. If you knew, you’d understand (which you will any way – I hereby command you as the World Most Reasonable Man to do so).

Any hoo…

I’ve spent a non-trivial amount of time thinking about politics and government. I even joined my local Democratic “club.” (A dangerous step on the road to Actual Action, I know, I know.)

As anyone who has read my stuff knows, I am passionately convinced that the key to our electoral failures lies in our failure to provide meaningful leadership. Of course, we’ve been correct in all our arguments (well, most of them, any way). We’ve presented bright, experienced and appealing candidates (OK, just go with me here). But we have wholly failed to demonstrate enough voters that we have real leadership ability.

Right now, we are as reactive as Republicans ever were. We have an agenda free of meaningful ideas and littered with half-measures on the margins, the political equivalent of pushing peas around on your plate. We are tied down with preserving our past victories against the onslaught of the Evil Repubs. All of which is, of course, fine by them.

To break the current cycle (which I’ve thought of as our “wondering in the woods” period, which seemed to do Jesus a world of good), we need, of course, a charismatic leader or two. Our Ronald Reagan as it were (but hopefully not evil).

The other thing we need to move forward is to get off of defense and go on offense by staking out issues that lead us forward. Rather than chasing voters with issues we think they’ll they like, we need to unveil new ideas that we think voters will gravitate toward, both from the left and the right. We have to make them want to like us. We can’t talk them into it.

For us to be the rulers, we must convince people that we are real leaders. Think about where we are today. Bush’s ideas are unquestionably out of step with a majority of voters. (So says the NY Times in a recent poll). Logically, for Bush to have won re-election, he had to have millions of voters vote against any rational definition of their own self-interest.

And yet they did. Think about that. Why would people do that? One part of the explanation, no doubt, is the extent to which people are horribly misinformed about what Bush actually has done and has said he’ll do. But what I heard over and over in the run-up to the election is that Bush is resolute, says what he means and means what he says, and won’t waver in his commitment.

And in fact, that is the Bush campaign’s own meme. Not that if Bush is elected he’ll find Osama. Or he’ll whack your social security benefits. Or raise your taxes (he will, just wait). Or embarrass our Canadian friends. Or bully our European allies. No, those things weren’t front and center.

Character. Strength. Resolute. Won’t waiver. Straight-shooter. All these things are what they wanted to telegraph into voters’ skulls, and they were (by my lights) plenty successful.

In fact, though a reasonably hard-core progressive liberal, I have found myself attracted to Bush’s aura of strength. And why not? It’s appealing. Too bad it’s in the cause of evil and not good.

John Kerry was certainly by any measure a strong man. Downright muscular for a 60 something year old guy. And I think in many ways he did project leadership.

But I think he was ill-served by his party’s agenda (and here we can put aside the notion that he likely had it in his power to redefine that agenda). His agenda was primarily that Bush is a failure (which of course he is), and if elected, I (Kerry) will be successful.

But he did not stake out any bold new ideas that voters connected with. What would we as voters get if we voted for Kerry? A more accommodating posture viz. our allies? Many more incremental government programs to help address our loss of economic competitiveness? Lower deficits? Higher taxes on the rich?

None of these are things voters can relate to on a gut level. (And watch out, because here’s the other Big Insight.) To succeed, we need to take positions that voters connect with on a basic emotional level. I can just about hear John Kerry saying, “How about sending your kid to college? Can you connect with that? Because I’m going to help you do that.” Or, “How about affordable health care? Is that something basic enough? Because I’ve got a plan to make sure we cover most of the Americans not currently covered by health insurance.”

Blah. And I’m one of his most ardent supporters!

Bill Clinton used to talk about the need to understand “gateway” issues. In his book he writes eloquently (the whole thing is quite eloquent in my view) about how the voters would never take him seriously about the 1001 government programs he wanted to implement until they were convinced he wasn’t going to spend them out of house and home. And that meant convincing them that his #1 priority was getting the federal budget deficit under control. And in office, he made sure to produce a plan that would deliver on that promise from the get-go. And deliver he did (over the screaming protests of the (almost-always-wrong) Repubs).

Now the federal deficit is back. And the winner of our next presidential election will surely promote his or her plan to reduce that deficit. I’m not sure if this is the issue we should put at the center of our agenda, but it’s certainly up there.

But the larger point is that we will surely be losers if we don’t build the emotional subtext to support that (or any other) policy position. The Repubs subtext is so clear that it ain’t so “sub” any more: bad people who are different than you think you’re a boob and want to take your freedom away because they think they know what’s good for you better than you do.

What’s ours? It seems to me that it ought to be something like, “Hey, we’re all in this together, and we need to make some decisions and share some resources so we can be there for each other when we need it. And someone has to watch the bosses.” Of course, I’m sure there are professionals who could do much better. Actually, at age 44 and a varied career across several industries, I’m pretty sure a professional would do no better. Either way…

Repubs have developed a talking point around taxes that is in many ways the defining issue for their subtext. All taxes are bad, because they allow evil government bureaucrats in far away places to decide what’s best for you. Besides, they just piss the money away on fraud and waste, and payments to people too stupid not to need help.

So I think I’ve come up with an issue that will allow us to start telegraphing our position. (Can anyone say, “drop the dead donkey?”)

Civil service reform.

This issue has been a fruitful area for well over a hundred years. If we don’t grab it, they will. Here’s how it would work. We would be appalled, shocked and appalled I tell you, at the amazing inefficiency of the government at all levels under the Repub’s watch. (We should probably just own up to, or ignore, our own role in devising the system.) Can anyone else hear Professor Harold Hill’s song about “Pool with a capital P” in their head?

We would then get every single Democrat in the country to start espousing the need for the following simple program: introduction into the civil service of the basic evaluation tools of private enterprise at all levels. We would call for bonuses for the top, say, 5% of performers, and remedial action leading to termination for the bottom 10%, with raises and promotions for everyone else depending on their reviews.

I can’t see how anyone could really be against this. Of course, I can imagine constituents on our side, notably those who in fact labor for the taxpayers, being anywhere from deeply concerned to outraged by this. OK, so right there, that’s benefit one. Having corps of civil servants righteously mad at us will get us at least a million new net voters. Don’t forget, as much as this proposal may irk these government worker-voters, we are likely to keep a lot of them any way. And those we lose we may well have lost in any case.

But to me this position has many additional benefits. First of course is the introduction (OK, a lot of this may already be place), of the same system of sticks and carrots that so many voters face in their work lives -- the direct policy benefit. Second, it equates government workers with all other workers, a door which swings both ways. In other words, if the government workers should be managed the same as me, maybe they are not in fact evil aliens from planet Tax’n’Spend who want to take my gun or my bible. Maybe they're just a bit like me after all.

Third, it massively shifts the discussion onto territory that is good for us – the government. It puts the working of the government at the center of our thinking. And that is a good thing for our society, and not half-bad for the Dems. We should be all about making the government deliver real value for the voters. That is, after all, what it is for. Plus its terrific politics.

Finally, it would put us on the offensive while putting the Repubs in the not-very-enviable position of having to argue against it. And, heaven forfend if they join us, we will have improved government while showing leadership. Nothin’ wrong with that. Declare victory and move on to the next one.

I would introduce another similar issue. Call it “Salary and Wage Fairness.” (Add/delete some synonyms, play with the initials and maybe we can get a catchy acronym out of it.) The idea is to call for legislation requiring that in all companies, the total pay of the CEO may be no more than 20 times the total pay of the least compensated employee.

There are probably about a thousand sharp edges to this one, maybe some fatal. We'll see. First, as one who at least completed law school, there are likely jurisdictional limits on what the government can do here. But surely we could get at federal and state contractors and others who receive direct government benefits. In fact, why couldn’t we reach the same companies who are reached by the minimum wage law? Just askin’.

Second, there will undoubtedly be problems with figuring out what any given individual’s pay actually is. Options, health club fees, employee cafeteria’s, etc. So many challenges, so little time!

A third concern is the very real prospect that potential CEO talent will refuse to serve in companies affected by this law. Actually, I’m not troubled by this one at all. I don’t think our current CEO class has performed all that admirably, do you? And in my experience, most CEO’s come to the job rich as Croceus in the first place. Maybe some CEO’s who actually need the money is exactly what our businesses need.

There are universities and governments all over the place that labor under this kind of wage ratio restriction. For all I know there are companies too who already live by this.

I’d think we’d be able to get a bunch of shareholder rights types like TIAA-CREF on board. Most importantly, it’s hard to see the downside here. I love the prospect of putting Repubs in the totally-not-enviable position of defending astronomical CEO pay. Or, conversely, horribly underpaying our lowest paid people. Either way, we win.

These are the sort of “wedge issues” we should be exploring.

Two more quick thoughts:
We on the left
1. need to start a dialog with the business community about globalization, focusing on two main points. One is health care. We should make the lack of access to affordable health care a key point in our thinking about globalization. Our competitors in Europe and Asia are beating us on this, one of the largest costs most businesses face.

The other point we need to start to talking to businesses about is energy independence. American businesses are too dependent on cheap foreign oil, and that has got to stop.

2. Which leads me into #2. We need to develop our next technology-leading businesses, and the area most ripe is alternative energy, which is already attracting billions of investment capital. We can be the world leaders on this, giving us not only lots of jobs as this industry grows and prospers, but giving all American businesses a leading-edge advantage in the use of cheaper and better energy supplies.

All of these issues, however, have to be positioned into a narrative that the government is not some far-away foreign influence, but is our chance to do the right thing for ourselves and for us to be the boss for once.

Another post coming soon on Things We Agree On. (Hint: there are more than you think!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

And While We're At It

And while we're reframing the debate, here's a meme I never hear, and I don't know why.

According to the President's party, the economy is "strong and getting stronger." Things are going great, economically, for our country. Jobs, investments, wages -- all good.

So what's with the austerity budget then? Why in the middle of such a great economy are we looking at drastic cuts for virtually everything not going to Halliburton?

The President has proposed what can only be called an auterity budget, of the type one might expect to see in particulaly tough economic times. Why? Are we not doing as well as he says? Or is he just mean? Timmy, what say you -- wanna ask a question?

Real Talking Points -- All Aboard!

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh surely has the right idea:

Shouldn't his critics just be saying over and over: level with the public? Tell
them what you want to do to Social Security.

So, bloggers, let's get on it.

By not demanding that the President put his cards on the table, aren't we taking the bait on this one? Anyone remember Wiley E. Coyote on the branch of the tree, sawing away? All our constant and detailed deconstruction of "privatization" is just giving the President a roadmap to success.

Here's a thought. How 'bout we shut up, and start demanding that Mr. Bush level with us. What is he proposing, exactly? Stop playing games, Mr. President, with our hopes and fears for the future, and come clean.

Here's an oratorical hint: imply that the President is hiding something (he is). Words/phrases that we should use: come clean, level, tell the truth, stop hiding, playing games, whack-a-mole, secret, hidden, agenda, deceptive, scare tactics, etc.

Our frame, if you will, is that this is another instance of the President taking a position which proves controversial, then reverses himself in face of political pressure. The flip-flopper. The poll-follower. (Back story: Providing health insurance to needy Texas children, nation building, stretching military too thin, Department of Homeland Security, 9/11 Commission, Condi Rice's testimony, finding bin Ladn, will seek UN vote, deficits are good/bad, etc.) Bush is weak, without principles, inept, hapless, utterly without a clue.

Surely this would be a great deal more fun than another 2,500 words on why the latest revisions from the Association of American Acturarials show that the trust fund won't hit the cashflow breakeven point 'til 2024, and not as we had thought 2018? We are totally bogged down in fighting a plan that the President can disavow, and can use to pivot to something else that he has clearly indicated he will pursue: raising taxes on the poor (which he calls "tax reform," a phrase we should be allergic to).

So from here on out, no more 'splainin' about how horrible the President's plan is. Mission accomplished, folks. Let's have a single meme out there on SS: Tell us the truth Mr. President: What are you proposing?

Let's use the power of the blogosphere to focus our fire on a single thing, and maybe we can move the debate (and our society) forward a bit.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Defeat on Page A8

The Washington Post lets everybody know that the President’s idea to invade Iraq was a bonehead move, as predicted by everyone with a brain:

When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran's theocracy -- potentially even a foil to Tehran's regional ambitions.

But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.

In this Era of Accountability, it’s nice to know that when the President stakes his reputation on something, it doesn’t really matter because if he turns out to be tragically and needlessly wrong, it’ll go straight down the memory hole.

Thanks, So-Called Main Stream Media! Hope you guys sleep well!

Here’s the Reasonable Man Headline:

“Iraqi Election Results Doom US Goals for Military Intervention.”

And CNN could scroll: …Iraqi election results in Shiite government…Shiites aligned with Iran against the US…Iran already possesses nuclear weapons…US intervention appears to backfire grievously…

OK, that last one may be a bit over the top…But the rest? I don’t think so… You tell me!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Most Lucid Man on the Planet Speaks

Matt Yglesias, the Most Lucid Man on the Planet, devotes another zillion words to proving to even the most unwilling mind that the President's Social Security Privitization scheme is bunk.

Read if you must.

My own view is that we have so thoroughly debunked the scheme, it's time to move into the "real agenda" phase. In other words, let's treat this like an investigation following what is an obvious cover-up. What is the President's real motive? What is he trying to do? Is it simply the destruction of a popular program that tends to create Democrats by the million? Is it an effort to destroy the creditworthiness of the United States of America so he can just legislate his debts away?

The President clearly did not like Saddam Hussein, and wanted to teach him a lesson for the benefit of all the guys the President did not like. That's my surmise of the President's "Real "Agenda" in Iraq. But here, for me at least, the jury is still out.

And I think it is way past time our discussion moved off the question of "just how bogus is this plan" to "why are our elected officials promoting a clear and obvious lie?"

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Dean's In -- Kos says Let's Get His Back.

If we're serious about victory, we need to give Dr. Dean a lot of money. If you have any, please give it to him. He'll use it to make Republicans appear as they are -- ridiculous.

It's the reasonable thing to do.

Contribution amount: $

Richard Clarke's Al Quaida Warning To Rice

What jumps out at me from Clarke's memo is his resisting the new administration's plan to review the threats to the US on a region by region basis. Clarke points out that this very template will be the cause of Al Quaida slipping through the cracks.

The reason this pops out at me is that it is indicative of the Bush administration's approach to its entire rule: they have a template for analysis, and we will make everything conform to that template, experts and evidence be damned. In their minds, it is how strong leadership is implemented, and to them (and me), the American people want just one thing from GWB: strong leadership. Policy and results be damned.

If you look carefully, you'll see this same approach over and over again. It is a way of being out in front of issues, rather than responding to them, which in Bush land is the weakest form of leadership -- and sadly for us, the Democrats specialty.

Bush & Co. figured out a while back that the public wants a government that seems to know what it's doing. When all we can do is react to unfolding events, they are setting a positive agenda. Until we start to do the same (but obviously in the name of good, not evil), we will remain in the opposition.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Maybe Not So Bad

It's a bright spring-like day here in NYC, enough to make one think that hope is indeed not gone.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bush has got to be the worst financial advisor ever

From today's Krugman:

[T]he logic of Bush-style Social Security privatization: it is, in effect, as if your financial adviser told you that you wouldn't have enough money when you retire - but you shouldn't save more. Instead, you should borrow a lot of money, buy stocks and hope for capital gains.

There. That's pretty easy to understand, isn't it? Protect your future by buying stocks on margin.

Dear Dr. Dobson

Dear Dr. Dobson,

I am writing to let you know my views about you and your organization.

I take you to be a purveyor of hatred and bigotry. Your entire agenda depends upon protecting children and families from various threats. You set yourself up as victims of a press attack against “those of us who care about defending children.” Are there people somewhere that don’t care about defending children? Why would anyone attack you or anyone else for defending children. Obviously, you use phrases like “defending children” and “Focus on Family” to obscure your real message.

Which is a message of fear and hatred. You should be ashamed of yourself.

You claim to be unfairly maligned by being accused of saying SpongeBob is gay. And of course, that’s not what you said. Nor is that why you’re being vilified. You’re being vilified because you preach of philosophy of hatred – hatred of gay people, hatred of people who support and defend their fellow humans’ right to live as they wish, hatred of those who wish to ensure equality of the sexes, hatred of those who do not share your radical views on reproductive health, people who in general are full of love and respect.

Instead, you seem to embrace those who enforce a rigid ideology that can only be described a Puritannical. Dr. Dobson, we have had to live with fools (charlatans, really, as I bet a vow of poverty is not in your lexicon) since we left Europe 500 hundred years ago. Your kind have enjoyed intermittent periods of ascendancy, typically during dark periods where fear was prevalent. Unfortunately, our leaders have discovered how profitable it can be to spread fear, and there is quite a bit of it about.

But in the end, hope always prevails. If you look at our history – indeed human history – you cannot help but see that in the end, the forces of hope and love always triumph over the forces of fear and hatred. And the reason is simple: God’s love is in each and every one of us, and no matter how much you try to convince your followers that God doesn’t love gay people, or people who stand against oppression and unfairness, or who stand up for the least amongst us, your mission will fail. Indeed, I know that in your heart it is already failed: deep down, you know the truth. Gay people aren’t evil. Children raised by two loving moms or two loving dads will be fine, and our society’s need for population growth will be satisfied. Why, that’s what MTV’s all about!

I wanted to write you because, come the judgment day, I do not want it to be said that I sat idly by while the Pharisees peddled their hate. I want the world to know that at least I tried to call you to account.

For all the unhappiness you have created and brought into this world needlessly, I hope you reap what you sow.

Neocons Make me Crazy! My Letter to the Editor

There's a review today of something called The Neocon Reader. It sounds like its worthwhile reading, since I find the exact ideas of the neocons remain something of a mystery.

The review was written by someone who is a self-proclaimed neocon, even though she voted for Gore (can't quite figure that one). As I understand their idea, they seem terribly opposed to terrorists and dictators possessing WMDs, which they seem to think distinguished them from others, somehow. I'm not sure who. Even terrorists and dictators tend to think that other terrorists and dictators shouldn't have WMDs -- only them.

Any hoo, I wrote a letter to the editor, and thought I'd share it here. Here the link to the review (Salon is usually pretty good about keeping things up for quite some time) http://www.salon.com/books/review/2005/02/04/neocon_reader/index.html

Dear Editor:

I feel much better about liberalism in the US after reading this review. Ms. Marlowe's praise for the neocon philosophy confirms to me its inherent emptiness. The entire point of view depends on slamming imaginary strawmen (e.g., the left wing pundits so upset about not stopping the Afghan war -- all 4 of them). The fact that she seems to have a mostly emotional connection to politics and policy (Kerry tedious and boring, Bush somehow rebellious and punk) just shows that the current ascendenncy of the neocons is a hiccup -- if we're so convervative as a nation, why did Bush just deliver a speech as his SOTU that any Democrat could have given.

It's OUR ideas that lead the way forward. One may think our spokespeople dull (no real argument from me), or one may find the business of harnessing the power of collective action to better all our lives (i.e., governing) to be tedious. One may even find it really fun to lambaste those whose earnestness and sincerity seem so humorless. But the truth is that one side is interested in moving our society to forward to ever greater heights, while the other is content to take pot shots for kicks.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Attack Ad

Over at http://attackadoftheday.blogspot.com/2005/01/social-security-attack-ads-average-guy.html#comments, (Attack Ad of the Day), I've posted my effort, which I'll post here as well:

OK, here's my attack ad of the day.

We open on a beautiful shot of an attractive older woman, probably close to 80. She's sitting in her lovely garden, on a lush spring day.

Grandma: Of course I remember! How could I forget. My parents, they worked so hard, and scrimped, and just tried to scrimp and save and put a little bit aside. But then, almost over night -- nothing. They lost everything. Wiped out.

We cut and see that she is talking with her 20 something granddaughter, who's holding a baby.

AVO: The Democrats created Social Security to ensure every worker would have a secure future no matter if they were winners or losers in the stock market.

We're cutting to the face of Granddaughter, and then Baby.

Grandma: I think it's crazy to take that away. Why would Bush want to jeopardize something we've worked so hard for?

Shot goes blurry. We see vaguely that Grandma is getting up, granddaughter is passing baby, Grandma is playing with baby, etc.

Title card comes up "Tell President Bush not to gamble with your future," with a URL, "Save Social Security.com" and an 800 number, "800-SAVE-SOC"AVO: Tell President Bush that our future is too improtant to gamble [play games] with.That's it. I'd put it on the air tomorrow. We have got to start an emotional conversation with our fellow Americans.

And I have a Message for You

“I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you; for you, the Social Security system will not change in any way.” -- SOTU

Is there a journalist in the house who can ask the obvious question: Isn’t that another way of saying that Social Security is definitely going to be changing for everyone under 55? And not in a good way?

Just wondering…

It’s the Accountability, Stupid

I continue to believe that one of our core values has to be accountability. The current administration seems dedicated to creating a 100% accountability-free environment, where the broadest promises can be freely ignored without consequence. What’s our mission in Iraq? To disarm Saddam. Pre 9/11, is terrorism important? No, not really. What’s the best way to stave off recession? Tax cuts. The best way to get out of a recession? Tax cuts. The best way to create jobs? Tax cuts. Best way to trim the deficit? Tax cuts. Most comfortable chair to sit in for the Super Bowl? Tax cuts.

In the end, accountability is a form of credibility. When congressional candidate Bush swore on a stack of bibles that Social Security would be flat-broke, busted in just 10 years, and 1988 sailed by with no actual bankruptcy, this should diminish the guy’s credibility when he starts crying wolf 25 years later.

I can think of no more apt literary reference for the boy-president than the boy who cried wolf. Saddam! Gay marriage! Social Security collapse!

To say nothing of No 9/11 inquiry! No Condi testifying! No Me testifying! No increase in death benefits to those killed in combat! And so on.

One of these days, this guy is going to need us to believe him for real, and a whole bunch of us will have a hard time putting aside our oft-vindicated skepticism.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

An Hour with This Guy

I don't believe I will be able to get through much of the President's SOTU tonight.

I can recall getting my kids around the TV for President Clinton's SOTU's, telling them that this is an important and historic ritual in our nation's history.

Now, it seems obscene to observe this utterly and completely corrupt charade, brazenly designed to manipulate the electorate to increase the party's grip on power.

I used to think we were nearing a state like 1930's Germany. I now think we are undeniably there, and the road to normalcy will be a long and arduous one, which sadly is likely to lead through a horrible and bloody conflict in the Middle East.

I wish my fellow Americans could/would understand that the actions we are taking today are shaping our future, whether we think so or not. And that we won't have a happy future just by wishin'.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hurrah! Democracy in Iraq!

The habit of reacting negatively to anything the Bushies tout as good is so ingrained that many on the left seem to be unhappy about the elections in Iraq. The security is terrible, the risks are great, many of the Sunni minority may boycott, the Kurds may think it an irrelevancy – the list of problems could go on and on.

And yet, there is no reason not to celebrate this turn of events. Destroying a tyrannical dictatorship in favor of a democracy is a good thing. Reversing the usual roles, many on the left believe that the price we paid for this is simply too high, and cannot get over the undeniable fact that we were out and out misled into this war.

Few wars are ever about what the people who started them thought they should be about. WWI had something to do with Serbia’s failure to prostrate itself 110% in showing proper deference to the wronged Austrian empire, whose heir had just been killed in Serbia. Well, I guess those Serbians are really, truly, extra sorry now.

WWII would not have been fought at all if the prize were the liberation of Europe and the stopping of the Hitlerites. The thing went on for two years with a solid majority of our fellow Americans perfectly happy to let those foreigners duke it out.

And we have paid a heavy price to keep China at bay, in Korea and Viet Nam. Given the utter futility of trying to stop, let alone delay, China’s ascendancy to the role of the world’s first power, could any one say it was worth it?

America’s experience in Iraq today reminds me so much of Viet Nam. We were intensely interested in every little tidbit of news from this far away and tiny beacon of hope for freedom and democracy. A new defense minister? Why, front page news. The capture of a rebel leader? Time to break into Bewitched for an urgent update.

We all turn our attention today to Iraq’s terribly flawed elections. NBC will undoubtedly take us to some polling place and interview voters who will assure us that Iraq is finally on the road to freedom. With a bit of luck, CNN will find the Iraqi’s who are prepared to chant, “Thank you America!” on camera. And thanks, on some level, we are owed.

But soon our attention will wander. We’ll forget all about the ongoing battles between the Shii’as and and Sunni’s (which one, we’ll wonder, is aligned with Iran?). The troubles of the newly elected Iraqi government in keeping the peace will be forgotten. Even the efforts to keep terrorists – real actual terrorists, not just Bush-imagined ones – will fade without new terrors perpetrated on American shores.

Today, most Americans have returned Viet Nam to the place of obscurity they reserve for virtually all places not in the continental US. It is a distant, irrelevant place, the name only meaningful as a reminder of the terrible cost we incurred so many years ago, for gains that we can no longer even articulate or remember.
Sure, we were duped into this war by a President far too comfortable with bad faith. President Bush repeatedly and without any equivocation laid out that the sole reason to go to war was to disarm Saddam. Period. Any intimation that there was any other reason was blasphemy, not to be even entertained.

Since it appeared that Saddam didn’t actually need disarming, and that that fact should have been apparent to all who weren’t trying – really, really hard – to avert their gaze, we’ve embarked on a crusade to justify our incursion. (“Never mind” just won’t seem to cut it.) For now, we’ve settled on the notion that bringing democracy and freedom to the oppressed people of Iraq is what made this all worth while.

I welcome the right wing of the Republican party to the left’s long-standing campaign to bring freedom to everyone on the planet. When the tables are turned (as they will inevitably be), and we are back in power, I wonder how many of today’s ruling party will remember how much they were prepared to pay to secure the freedom of the great Iraqi people?

How many will support us as we seek to bring freedom to the great people of Saudi Arabia, where they are not voting today? Or Egypt? Or Pakistan? Or the Sudan? Or Russia? Did I mention Ohio, where the right to vote seems to be unavailable to those who would use it against our rulers?

I’d like to think that a deeply conservative President has been able to do a deeply liberal thing – use US military might to secure freedom for a people oppressed by a terrible dictator. And perhaps he has. But I suspect that the President’s people are in fact not on-board with the current justification for war, but are rather signed on to the traditional right-wing foreign policy: we’re OK with dictators who play ball with us, and those that seem prone to aid our enemies, well, if they keep that up for a decade or two, they’d better watch out.

I think celebrating the liberation of an oppressed people is something we shall not see again any time soon. We have paid far too dear a cost for this unilateral madness -- let us at least savor the fruits.